What is the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)?
Here, we tell you what the Multistate Bar Exam is, which states administer it, and what a “passing” MBE score is. We also tell you which subjects are tested on the MBE and give you some tips for studying for the MBE.
What is the Multistate Bar Exam?
The Multistate Bar Exam, or “MBE,” is a multiple-choice test invented and administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE).
It is composed of 200 multiple-choice questions. It is administered twice each year on the last Wednesday of every February and July.
Examinees have six hours to complete the 200 questions. The exam is divided into two 100-question portions. One hundred questions are administered in the morning and examinees are given three hours to answer them. The additional 100 questions are administered in the afternoon and examinees are given three hours to answer them.
As detailed below, only 175 of the 200 multiple-choice questions are scored. Twenty-five of the questions are “test” questions that are unscored.
Which subjects are tested on the Multistate Bar Exam?
There are a total of seven subjects tested on the Multistate Bar Exam:
- Civil Procedure (this subject was recently added in February 2015)
- Constitutional Law
- Contracts and Sales
- Criminal Law and Procedure
- Real Property
There are 25 scored questions on each subject. Thus, the subjects are weighted equally in terms of how they are tested. The MBE topics, however, are not. You can read more about the highly tested topics on the MBE here.
As noted above, 175 questions are scored in total. Twenty-five questions are test questions that are not scored. (The 25 test questions can cover any subject.)
Note that the MBE does not test any state-specific law. Rather, it tests the majority law and federal rules. Every examinee in every state takes the same Multistate Bar Exam.
Which jurisdictions administer the Multistate Bar Exam?
The Multistate Bar Exam is administered by every jurisdiction with two exceptions: Louisiana and Puerto Rico.
How much is the Multistate Bar Exam portion of the bar exam worth?
In most jurisdictions, the MBE portion is worth 50% of an examinee’s score. Uniform Bar Exam jurisdictions weigh the MBE at 50%. In some states, it is worth less. Below, we give you an overview of how much the MBE portion is worth in your state:
STATES WHERE MBE SCORE IS WORTH 33%
- Maryland (This will change as Maryland is adopting the UBE in 2019. When it does, it will be worth 50%.)
- Ohio (This will change as Ohio is adopting the UBE in 2020. When it does, the MBE will be worth 50%.)
STATES WHERE MBE SCORE IS WORTH 36%
STATES WHERE MBE SCORE IS WORTH 40%
- North Carolina
STATES WHERE MBE SCORE IS WORTH 45%
STATES WHERE MBE SCORE IS WORTH 50%
- All other states
You can read more here about how much your MBE score is worth.
What is a passing Multistate Bar Exam score?
The MBE score that is considered “passing” is set by each jurisdiction. The table below will tell you what a passing MBE score is.
Note that most jurisdictions do not have a “minimum” MBE score that you must receive to pass the exam. (So, in theory, a higher score on the written portion could make up for a lower MBE score.) There are some exceptions to this—like Kentucky requires a score of 132 minimum on the MBE. South Dakota requires a minimum score of 135. And Palau requires a minimum score of 120. You can read more about this here.
How is the Multistate Bar Exam scored?
The MBE is scored on a scale which can range from 40 (low) to 200 (high). “Raw” MBE scores (i.e., the number you actually got correct out of the 175 scored MBE questions) are scaled using a statistical process called “equating” which is supposed to account for the difference in difficulty between exams. For example, if an exam is difficult in comparison with a prior exam, more points will be added to an examinee’s raw score.
The converted score is what is released to examinees. Raw scores are no longer released to examinees. However, the chart below will give you an approximate raw score that is needed to achieve a specific scaled score. (Note: it is impossible to predict exactly what raw score will lead to a specific converted score due to the statistical process that the NBCE uses each administration, but this chart should give you a pretty good idea of what you will need.) The raw score listed below is the approximate number of questions that an examinee answered correctly out of 190 (though 175 questions are scored now, 190 used to be scored and this data is from the time period where 190 questions were scored). The “scaled score” is what the examinee’s score converted into. You can read more about how to convert a raw score into a scaled score here.
If you have any questions about what the MBE is or how it is administered, please feel free to contact us here!
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